Picks of the week
(PG-13, 105 minutes, The Weinstein Company): Amy Adams won a Golden Globe for her role as painter Margaret Keane, known for her sticky-sweet paintings of doe-eyed waifs that became the middlebrow rage in the late 1950s and 1960s, then kitschy collectibles of high-ironic style decades later. In a restrained, mouselike performance, Adams’ Keane comes across as sympathetic but not terribly deep, an admirably hardworking single mom interested in numerology and spirituality, but too skittish and afraid to verbalize what drives and frightens her the most. The film follows her journey of self-discovery and empowerment, from put-upon housewife and weekend painter to victim of a controlling husband (Christoph Waltz) and patriarchal art world.
Clearly in love with the groovy color palettes and streamlined contours of the era, director Tim Burton delivers “Big Eyes” with few of his signature imaginative touches, save for a couple of creepy hallucinations, one staged next to the Brillo boxes and Campbell’s Soup cans that would soon inspire Andy Warhol. The film raises provocative questions about connoisseurship vs. populism, personal expression vs. the market, and the dark arts of press, publicity and shrewd self-invention. But Burton and the screenwriters skate along the particulars of the plot while Waltz hams it up with an over-ingratiating performance, his face permanently plastered with a wolflike grin. Contains thematic elements and profanity. Extras: A making-of featurette. On Blu-ray: Q&A highlights.
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‘The Boy Next Door’
(R, 91 minutes, Universal): In this unintentional comedy, Jennifer Lopez’s schoolteacher character has ill-advised rebound sex with a studly student (Ryan Guzman) after catching her husband cheating on her. At 45, Lopez remains in fine form. Director Rob “The Fast and the Furious” Cohen lavishes almost as much attention on her body as he does on Guzman’s. That this student, Noah, is said to be almost 20 makes it only slightly less icky than it sounds, even though it’s never adequately explained why the kid is still taking AP classes when most others his age would be halfway through college. Guzman, who’s pushing 30, looks more like the undercover cops from “21 Jump Street” than a boy. It’s just one of the film’s many improbabilities, which will either flow over you like water, if you let them, or irritate like an itchy sweater, if you fight them. When Lopez’s Claire comes to her senses and tries to break off their relationship, Noah is revealed to be a psychotic stalker, transforming from Jason Schwartzman’s precocious preppy in “Rushmore” into Glenn Close from “Fatal Attraction.” Contains violence, sex, brief nudity and obscenity. Extras: Commentary with Cohen, a making-of featurette and deleted scenes.
(unrated, 93 minutes, IFC Films): This Australian horror flick is proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Based its somewhat conventionally spooky trailer – or even a simple synopsis of the plot, which involves a bogeyman who seems to have stepped out of a picture book by Maurice Sendak’s evil twin – there isn’t all that much to distinguish it from many other similar frightfests. And yet, as it turns out, the feature debut of writer-director Jennifer Kent is not just genuinely, deeply scary, but also a beautifully told tale of a mother and son, enriched with layers of contradiction and ambiguity. “The Babadook” also features visually gorgeous filmmaking, echoing the book’s monochromatic palette of grays and blacks (courtesy of award-winning illustrator Alex Juhasz), then sharpening them with accents of icy blue and blood red. It looks and feels like an art film as much as a thriller. That’s a difficult juggling act, but Kent pulls it off with style. Contains frightening, sometimes violent imagery, crude language, brief sensuality. Extras: interviews with cast and crew and a making-of featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: Kent’s short film “Monster” and deleted scenes.
“Beside Still Waters”
“John Doe Vigilante”
“He Loves Me … He Loves Me Not”
“I Am Steve McQueen”
“I Really Hate My Ex”
“John Denver: Country Boy”
“Enter the Dangerous Mind”
“Mom’s Day Away”
“Odd Man Out”
“Batman vs. Robin”
“Vengeance of an Assassin”
“The King of Masks”
“REC 4: Apocalypse”
“Blood and Black Lace”
“Power Rangers Super Megaforce: The Perfect Storm”
“The Stephen Sondheim Collection”
“That Man From Rio”
“Up to His Ears”
“Carrie & The Rage: Carrie 2.”
“Foyle’s War, Set 8”
“JAG: Complete Series”
“The End of the Civil War”
“Teen Titans Go!: Appetite for Disruption Season 2 Part 1”
“The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Stingers and Zingers”
“World War One: The People’s Story”
“Metal Hurlant Chronicles: The Complete Series”
“Walker, Texas Ranger: Flashback”
“Little House on the Prairie: Season Five”